S2 of FX’s ‘Reservation Dogs’ Builds on Community

Reservation Dogs -- “Pilot” - Episode 101 -- One year after the death of their friend, four Native teens commit crimes to fund their efforts to leave their home in rural Oklahoma. Written by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi; Directed by Sterlin Harjo. Bear (D'Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Elora (Devery Jacobs), Cheese (Lane Factor) and Willie (Paulina Alexis), shown. (Photo Courtesy of FX on Hulu)

FX’s Reservation Dogs is one of the best shows on television right now and it keeps getting snubbed. After two seasons, one of my favorite friend groups is still caught in a cloud of grief. While some try to escape it by fleeing the rez, others seek answers through their community. 

The Shitasses 

RESERVATION DOGS -- “The Curse” - Episode 201 -- As the town recovers from the tornado aftermath, Willie Jack tries to reverse a curse. Written by Sterlin Harjo, Dallas Goldtooth and Ryan RedCorn; Directed by Sterlin Harjo. Jackie (Elva Guerra) and Elora Danan (Devery Jacobs), shown. (Photo credit: Shane Brown/FX)

While Elora (played by Devery Jacobs) and Jackie (played by Elva Guerra) try to make their way to California, the rest of the Rez Dogs stay behind – trying to break a curse. The gang is split, hurt, and seeking connection without actually talking to each other this season. In episode six, two Native influencers attempt to decolonize the group’s silent treatment but don’t worry, we still get advice from Spirit (played by Dallas Goldtooth). This show blends traditions across generations, modernized seventh-generational American experiences included. Case in point: breaking a curse with traditional methods while the elders improvise with the lyrics of Free Fallin by Tom Petty.

We also get an episode where Bear (played by D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai) gets a job at a construction site and processes his grief in a porta-potty – an ironic nod to colonized religion where Bear looks like he’s in Confession with Spirit. You might recognize TikTok skateboard cranberry juice lover Nathan Apodaca here, who made his acting debut in episode three as Uncle Charley, who also happens to request cranberry juice on his lunch break. This show continues to show how a community should care for one another, both emotionally and spiritually. 

The Elders

The Aunties who once ran the rez (before adulting sprung up on them) find themselves at a conference this season, ready for some sexy time. Just like our Shitasses, these women are also still processing the grief of their own lost member – Cookie. She was the glue to their friend group and also the community––no one has been the same since. After another death brings everyone together again, we get to see a beautiful ceremony in episode four. It made me long for connection and reminded me of my own grandmother who passed a few years ago.   

Not only do the elders in the community help the shitasses as best as they can, Big – played by Zahn McClarnon – uses his authority to help one of them out of an accidental assignment into the foster care system. Like Bear, many of our elders can also see guiding Spirits. Whether they’re myths, legends, or ancestors – these scenes remind us that no matter how old you are, trauma will often follow you until you’ve allowed yourself time to heal. 

The Ancestors

RESERVATION DOGS -- “Run” - Episode 202 -- Elora and Jackie’s road trip takes a turn for the worse. Written by Sterlin Harjo, Dallas Goldtooth and Ryan RedCorn; Directed by Sterlin Harjo. Spirit (Dallas Goldtooth), shown. (Photo credit: Shane Brown/FX)

After a letter finds its way to Willie Jack (played by Paulina Alexis), we’re reminded of the glue their friend group once had – Willie Jack’s late cousin, Daniel (played by Dalton Cramer). There’s a powerful image in episode nine when Willie Jack goes to visit Daniel’s mom in prison. I had to pause this episode, just to take it in. Seeking guidance, Daniel’s mom, Hokti (played by Lily Gladstone) prays with Willie Jack and the ancestors suddenly appear behind, in an effort to teach Willie Jack how to get rid of the darkness. I felt the same chills Willie Jack did and had tears in my eyes. 

As we grow closer to Día De Los Muertos, it’s TV shows like this that remind me that we have access to our ancestors every single day of the year. They’re always watching over us. Proud of how far we’ve come and ready to help heal us whenever we seek their guidance. But just like Hokti says, it takes focus and intent. I really hope this show finally gets the recognition it deserves and I can’t wait to see how our Rez Dogs decide to honor Daniel’s time capsule wish in the final episode this week. 

What We're Watching